During the time of the invasion, I had been in a concentration camp near my home town, Shin-Sou. Camp 636, only a few miles away from the southern cape of the Woodland. Living conditions weren’t horrid, though it was hardly an enjoyable experience. Instead of weakening us and killing us off, the Killians put us to work in factories. Camp 636 held 3 factories: Ground Weapons, Siege and Naval. I was placed in the Ground Weapons factory, the least dreadful of the three. Siege was the worst. On average, there were about five deaths per week in the Siege factory. I once heard of a man whose arm was ripped clean off by the gears of some machinery. Luckily death was not the most common occurrence around the camp.
As strange as it may seem, we were better off than most people living outside the concentration camp. I suppose it has to do with the Killian propaganda. It’s all about expanding, conquering and destroying. It’s more efficient for them to turn us into slaves rather than exterminate us. We were fed, clothed and sheltered. I felt like a coward. A traitor. Part of me screamed and protested for martyrdom, but my common sense told me to live and fight another day. Regardless, guilt made a well out of my heart, and it lived for a long time afterwards.
While we were given fair living conditions, the Killians ran a tight ship. We were watched constantly, and the concentration camp itself doubled as a military base. Escape was a fool’s concept, and it was made clear that martyrs were not tolerated. Anyone who didn’t cooperate was abducted and put in The Chamber, a torturous prison cell. On Sunday of each week, the whole population of the camp was called to the Middle Yard (this was a wide gravel/dirt area in front of our living quarters) to witness the beating and execution of martyrs and trouble makers. Their choosing of Sunday wasn’t coincidental either. For many people, Sunday was a hopeful day, and Forlaud supposed he could break hope by ordering executions on the Lord’s Day.
I remember the day the Killians retreated. It was rainy and cold, and the 7th division of the Killian Land Force was stationed at Camp 636. An amphibious assault was being prepared for one of the island provinces. The Killians had launched a few ambitious invasions in the past, but this was one of the larger forces I had seen since the beginning of the war. I was at work in the Ground Weapons factory when the countless platoons marched off to the shore. I worked the usual eight hour day with half an hour for lunch, going straight to the Middle Yard after my shift. I looked up at the dark evening sky, watching for fire in the distance. The Killians always made a huge fire whenever a new territory was conquered. They could be seen for miles, but I had not seen one from the island provinces yet.
At about midnight, when I was lying in my bunk, allowing my thoughts to wander, I heard a loud horn in the distance. It was a deep, brooding bow that seemed to summon a blood-red personification of fear. I sat up and looked out my circular window to see the front gate being opened. The flag of the Killian Land Force’s 7th division flew high above a mass of soldiers. The General, garbed in traditional Killian black uniform, had a look of urgency upon his gruff face. He spoke with the camp warden, then turned to his men, yelling something I couldn’t completely discern. Something about returning… the homeland… up north... foreign… death to the invaders!
The division marched through the rest of Camp 636. A few of my fellow prisoners had also heard the commotion and were murmuring amongst themselves. I had not the slightest clue what was going on, but I knew that the Killian Army was not known for its hasty retreats. Something was awry, and some foreign hope had entered my heart. Perhaps, just perhaps, the end could be near.